Navigating the airport with your baggage could soon get a bit easier, thanks to an invention by a California company.
Travelmate Robotics has created an autonomous suitcase that will trail you by tracking the location of your smartphone.
The Travelmate is designed to tail owners by three to five feet (0.9 to 1.5 metres) and rolls behind them – upright or on its side — much like BB-8 or R2D2 dutifully follow their human counterparts in the “Star Wars” films.
“Suitcases haven’t really changed for the past couple of decades. It’s overdue for innovation,” the company’s CEO, David Near, told CNN Money.
While the device won’t be able to keep up with a human who is running to catch a flight (the average human can reach 24 kilometres an hour), with a top speed of nearly 11 km/h it can exceed most people’s walking speed, which is about 5 km/h.
Travelmate Robotics has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for commercial production and plans to offer the mobile luggage in three sizes, retailing at about $524, $650 and $782.
Near, 61, told CNN Money that he came up with the idea while travelling a year ago and realized it would cool to have a “robot companion.”
“For a lot of things, having an autonomous suitcase is much more comfortable,” he said.
Near said the Travelmate prototype has been tested successfully in shopping malls and on sidewalks, and isn’t concerned about its ability to navigate through a crowded airport or train station.
The suitcase uses an infrared sensor to help locate and dodge obstacles, but the final product may use a camera or radar.
So far, the Travelmate has raised nearly $6,000 of its roughly $131,000 goal on Indiegogo.
Near told CNN Money that should it fail to raise these funds, it will seek help from traditional investors and maintains that the company will roll out deliveries near summer.
Despite the Travelmate’s potential to ease the burden of carrying or rolling your luggage, its autonomous technology does leave it open to potential theft.
Currently, the Travelmate is designed to sound an alarm and send an alert to its owner’s phone if it’s more than 4.5 m away.
The company is also working on a way to ensure the alarm doesn’t go off in situations when travellers may become separated from their bags, such as checking your luggage at an airport or stowing it in a compartment on a bus or train.